Against The Tide, by Wilhelm Ropke
This particular book explores the thinking of Wilhelm Ropke towards the end of his life as he examined the tensions that many Western economies felt to adopt terrible economic policies. This book is a collection of shorter essays that are generally linked together by a desire to go against the current of the economic thinking of his time and to encourage sound thinking and thrift on the part of governments that nevertheless avoided forced austerity on the people. Indeed, Ropke’s hostility to austerity is one of the most interesting aspects of this book, in that it encourages the reader to reflect upon the ways that someone who urges restraint and thrift can nevertheless be in favor of the freedom of consumers to buy what they wish rather than be forced into certain narrow channels by the interests of their corrupt governments. Many of the negative comments that the author made about intellectuals applies just as well nowadays as it did during the days when this book was first written. The result is a powerful look at economics that is in favor of the well-being of ordinary people but which has a lot of critical things to say about the political and economic state of affairs in Western civilization since World War I.
This book is about 250 pages long or so and it is divided into two parts and eighteen shorter essays. After a foreword, the first four essays of the book discuss the Weimar Republic, Brown (Nazi) Totalitarianism, and World War II (I). These essays discuss such matters as the problem of transfers in international capital movements (1), the negative relationship of the “intellectuals” and capitalism (2), the secular significance of the crisis between World War I and World War II (3), and the question of whether World War II marked the end of an era or not (4). The remain essays deal with the postwar reconstruction and the struggle against Red (Communist/Socialist) Totalitarianism (II). These essays include thoughtful discussions of British free trade (5), repressed inflation (6), the Marshall Plan (7), freed interest rates (8), austerity (9), the formation and use of capital (10), Keynes (11), the fight against inflation (12) as well as the dilemma of imported inflation (13), and the author’s rather caustic thoughts about the welfare state (14). There are also discussions of the American balance-of-payments crisis (15), which is still a problem, the nature of the world monetary system (16), the relationship between the D-mark and the dollar (17), and a short eulogy for F.A. Kramer (18).
Among the aspects of economics and politics that comes up for criticism, among the most relevant is the welfare state. Far too often people are simply not aware of the cost that various goods and services have and it can be politically popular for people to run on a policy of making certain goods and services free or ridiculously low cost without giving an explanation of the trade-offs involved with this thievery. If one robs Peter to pay Paul, one can generally count on the support of Paul. All too often, though, people are robbed to pay themselves, with the added upkeep of high amounts of well-paid and often corrupt bureaucrats, which can lead to a high degree of trouble when the promised benefits do not turn out as expected. The author’s hostility to thievery of any kind, whether it is through excessive taxation, through inflationary policies of currency, or through a welfare state, or even through manipulation of balance of payments, are all quite notable in the way that they demonstrate a consistency of approach that recognizes the way that restraint and respect for the property of others and other solid middle-class values are at the base of any societal well-being, something a lot of people in our present evil age have yet to learn.